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Robert Taylor

from the trailer for
Waterloo Bridge (1940)
Born Spangler Arlington Brough
August 5, 1911(1911-08-05)
Filley, Nebraska, U.S.
Died June 8, 1969 (aged 57)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1934–1968
Spouse(s) Barbara Stanwyck (m. 1939–1951) «start: (1939)–end+1: (1952)»"Marriage: Barbara Stanwyck to Robert Taylor (actor)" Location: (linkback:
Ursula Thiess (m. 1954–1969) «start: (1954)–end+1: (1970)»"Marriage: Ursula Thiess to Robert Taylor (actor)" Location: (linkback:

Robert Taylor (August 5, 1911 – June 8, 1969) was an American film and television actor.


Early life

Born Spangler Arlington Brugh in Filley, Nebraska, he was the son of Ruth Adaline (née Stanhope) and Spangler Andrew Brugh, who was a farmer turned doctor.[1][2] As a teenager, he was a track star and played the cello in his high school orchestra. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Doane College to study music.[3][4]

While at Doane, he took cello lessons from Professor E. Gray, a man whom he admired and idolized. After Professor Gray announced he was accepting a new position at Pomona College in Los Angeles, Brugh moved to California and enrolled at Pomona.[5] He joined the campus theatre group and was eventually spotted by a MGM talent scout in 1932 after production of Journey's End.[6]


After Brugh signed a seven-year contract with MGM for $35 a week, his name was changed to Robert Taylor.[7] He made his film debut in the 1934 comedy, Handy Andy, opposite Will Rogers (on a loan-out to 20th Century Fox). After appearing in a few small roles, he appeared in one of his first leading roles in Magnificent Obsession, with Irene Dunne. This was followed by Camille, opposite Greta Garbo.[6]

Taylor and Jean Harlow, 1937

Throughout the late 1930s, Taylor appeared in films of varying genres including the musicals Broadway Melody of 1936 and Broadway Melody of 1938, and the British comedy A Yank at Oxford with Vivien Leigh. In 1940, he reteamed with his A Yank at Oxford co-star Vivien Leigh in Mervyn LeRoy's drama Waterloo Bridge.

After being given the nickname "The Man with the Perfect Profile", Taylor began breaking away from his perfect leading man image and began appearing in darker roles beginning in 1941. That year he portrayed Billy Bonney (better known as Billy the Kid) in Billy the Kid. The next year, he played the title role in the film noir Johnny Eager opposite Lana Turner. After playing a tough sergeant in Bataan in 1943, Taylor contributed to the war effort by becoming a flying instructor in U.S. Naval Air Corps. During this time, he also starred in instructional films and narrated the 1944 documentary The Fighting Lady.[4] Robert Taylor first appeared with actress Elizabeth Taylor in the 1949 movie Conspirator. 38 year old Taylor was somewhat uncomfortable with Elizabeth Taylor being 16 years old and his love interest. The age difference was mentioned in the film, when they made Elizabeth state her age as 18 years old to Robert's age of 31 years of age.[8]

In 1950, Taylor landed the role of General Marcus Vinicius in Quo Vadis, opposite Deborah Kerr. The film was a hit, grossing USD$11 million.[6] The following year, he starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the film version of Walter Scott's classic Ivanhoe, followed by 1953's Knights of the Round Table and The Adventures of Quentin Durward, all filmed in England.

By the mid-1950s, Taylor's career began to wane. He starred in a comedy western in 1955 co-starring Eleanor Parker called Many Rivers To Cross.In 1958 he shared lead with Richard Widmark in the edgy John Sturges western, The Law and Jake Wade. In 1958, he formed his own production company, Robert Taylor Productions, and the following year, he starred in the ABC hit television series The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor (1959–1962).[3] Following the end of the series in 1962, Taylor continued to appear in films and television including A House Is Not a Home and two episodes of Hondo. In 1965, after filming Johnny Tiger in Florida, Taylor took over the role of narrator in the television series Death Valley Days, when Ronald Reagan left to pursue a career in politics.[9] Taylor would remain with the series until 1969 when he became too ill to continue working.

Personal life


In February 1944, Taylor helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.[10] In 1947, he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee regarding fellow actors whom he believed to be Communists.[11]


After appearing with actress Barbara Stanwyck in the 1937 film This Is My Affair, the two were married in 1939. The marriage had its ups and downs and eventually ended in 1951.[6] In 1954, Taylor married German-born actress, Ursula Thiess, with whom he had two children. Terrance born in 1955 and Therese born in 1959. [12]


In 1951, Taylor starred in the film Above and Beyond, a biopic of Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets. The two men met and found that they had much in common. Both had considered studying medicine, and were avid skeet-shooters and fliers. Taylor learned to fly in the mid-1930s, and served as a United States Navy flying instructor during World War II. His private aircraft was a Twin Beech called "Missy" (wife Stanwyck's nickname) which he used on hunting and fishing trips. She complained that he spent all his time polishing his guns and aircraft, but when airborne could "do anything a bird could do, except sit on a barbed wire fence".[13]


On June 8, 1969, Taylor died of lung cancer at the age of 57 and was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California.[14]

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Robert Taylor has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.

Selected filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1935 West Point of the Air "Jasky" Jaskarelli
Broadway Melody of 1936 Robert Gordon
Magnificent Obsession Dr. Robert Merrick
1936 Small Town Girl Dr. Robert "Bob" Dakin Alternative title: One Horse Town
The Gorgeous Hussy "Bow" Timberlake
Camille Armand Duval
1937 Personal Property Raymond Dabney aka Ferguson Alternative title: The Man in Possession
This Is My Affair Lt. Richard L. Perry
Broadway Melody of 1938 Stephan "Steve" Raleigh
1938 A Yank at Oxford Lee Sheridan
Three Comrades Erich Lohkamp
1939 Stand Up and Fight Blake Cantrell
Remember? Jeffrey "Jeff" Holland
1940 Waterloo Bridge Roy Cronin
Escape Mark Preysing Alternative title: When the Door Opened
Flight Command Ensign Alan Drake
1941 Billy the Kid Billy Bonney
When Ladies Meet Jimmy Lee
1942 Johnny Eager John "Johnny" Eager
Her Cardboard Lover Terry Trindale
Stand by for Action Lieutenant Gregg Masterman Alternative title: Cargo of Innocents
1943 The Youngest Profession Cameo
Bataan Sergeant Bill Dane
1944 Song of Russia John Meredith
1946 Undercurrent Alan Garroway
1947 High Wall Steven Kenet
1949 The Bribe Rigby
1950 Ambush Ward Kinsman
Devil's Doorway Lance Poole
1951 Quo Vadis Marcus Vinicius
Westward the Women Buck Wyatt
1952 Ivanhoe Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe
Above and Beyond Lieutenant Colonel Paul W. Tibbets
1953 I Love Melvin Cameo
Ride, Vaquero! Rio
All the Brothers Were Valiant Joel Shore
Knights of the Round Table Lancelot
1954 Valley of the Kings Mark Brandon
Rogue Cop Det. Sgt. Christopher Kelvaney
1955 The Adventures of Quentin Durward Quentin Durward
1956 The Last Hunt Charlie Gilson
D-Day the Sixth of June Captain Brad Parker
1958 The Law and Jake Wade Jake Wade
Party Girl Thomas "Tommy" Farrell
1963 Miracle of the White Stallions Colonel Podhajsky Alternative title: The Flight of the White Stallions
1964 A House Is Not a Home Frank Costigan
1968 Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows Mr. Farriday - The 'In' Group
Year Title Role Notes
1959–1962 The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor Captain Matt Holbrook 97 episodes
1966–1969 Death Valley Days Host 77 episodes
1967 Hondo Gallagher 2 episodes


  1. ^ FGA - Robert Taylor
  2. ^ Wayne, Jane Ellen. The Leading Men of MGM. pp. 165. ISBN 0-7867-1475-1. 
  3. ^ a b Robert Taylor
  4. ^ a b Erikson, Hal. "Robert Taylor Biography". Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  5. ^ Wayne, Jane Ellen. The Leading Men of MGM. pp. 166. ISBN 0-7867-1475-1. 
  6. ^ a b c d Griffith, Benjamin. "Robert Taylor, St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture". Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  7. ^ Wayne, Jane Ellen. The Leading Men of MGM. pp. 167. ISBN 0-7867-1475-1. 
  8. ^ TCM movie host Robert Clooney
  9. ^ Erikson, Hal. "Robert Taylor Biography". Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  10. ^ Ross, Steven J. (2002). Movies and American Society. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 197. ISBN 0-631-21960-9. 
  11. ^ Brettell, Andrew; King, Noel; Kennedy, Damien; Imwold, Denise (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. pp. 188–189. ISBN 0-764-15858-9. 
  12. ^ Wayne, Jane Ellen. The Leading Men of MGM. pp. 184–186. ISBN 0-7867-1475-1. 
  13. ^ Tibbets, Paul W. Mission: Hiroshima, Stein & Day, 1985 ISBN 0-8128-8169-9
  14. ^ Wayne, Jane Ellen. The Leading Men of MGM. pp. 192. ISBN 0-7867-1475-1. 

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